You can participate
Michigan Tech is always looking for partners interested in sponsoring undergraduate research projects. For information about participating, contact Valorie Troesch (906-487-2906).
Undergraduate Researchers Solve Problems
by Jana Jones
Research isn’t just for graduate students any more. Michigan Tech has established Undergraduate Research Fellowships to give students the research experience that both they and employers are demanding. Michigan Tech funds an undergraduate program that allows a dozen students to participate in a 10-week summer research experience.
Wilson Studies Sound, Sight and Recall
You might think that looking at pictures is a leisure activity. For Abbigale Wilson though, it was the basis for an undergraduate research experience. Wilson worked with Rosalie Kern, an assistant professor in the department of education, to study the effects that valence and theme congruent sounds have on a person’s ability to recall pictures. Valence is simply whether a picture is considered to be positive or negative—for instance, sunshine on a green meadow would be positive, while a picture of a car crash would be considered negative. Theme congruent sounds are simply sounds that fit the picture—a photograph of puppies might be accompanied by the sounds of puppies barking.
Wilson and Kern hypothesized that sounds with the pictures would aid in memory, and people would remember more of the positive pictures than the negative.
“The results showed no significant effect of sound on recall; however, significantly more negative pictures were recalled than positive pictures,” Wilson said. “Currently a second study is being conducted using the same pictures, only this time they will be paired with theme incongruent sounds.” “My experience with Abbigale was very positive,” Kern said. “She dealt with the frustrations of experimental research with patience and grace, which is quite commendable in my opinion.”
Wilson presented a paper, coauthored by Kern and Ron Gratz, associate professor of biological sciences, at the Southern Society of Philosophy and Psychology annual conference in Atlanta, Georgia.“A lot of hard work and dedication went into the long hours spent on this research experiment,” Wilson said. “And though I probably would have said otherwise if asked back then, I would definitely do it all over again.”
Bareither Likes the Grind
Chad Bareither is a mechanical engineering student who has an interest in manufacturing processes. This summer he worked for Michele Miller, associate professor of mechanical engineering, on a project that might give you the shakes.
“My research was a continuing study of a previous master’s student’s work in vibration assisted grinding,” Bareither explained. Over the course of the summer, Bareither calibrated, tested and revised the experimental setup, and took some preliminary data.
“Chad worked on two projects,” Miller said. “One involved vibration assisted grinding experiments, in which force and temperature are measured. Previous experiments of this type in our lab had yielded results with a lot of variability and poor repeatability.”
“It turns out that there were undesirable trends and periodicities in the data, so something was wrong with the set-up,” Bareither said. “I enjoyed the work.You make your own hours, but still must get the work done. It takes self motivation.”
“Chad showed diligence and creativity in diagnosing and solving problems,” Miller said. “He was a great addition to our weekly research group meetings.”
“The overall experience gave me insight into research, which is a big part of higher education,” Bareither observed. Bareither began his PhD this January at Rutgers University in New Jersey, where he is studying manufacturing processes in the industrial engineering department.
Hales Builds His Own Equipment
Adam Hales is a mechanical engineering student who got more than a little taste of interdisciplinary work over the summer with his undergraduate research project.
Hales worked to build an equipment setup to research droplet collisions.
“Adam reverse engineered an ink-jet printer to construct a research device that could produce drops on demand of a specific size to use in a drop collider device,” said Scott Post, an assistant professor in the mechanical engineering department, and Hales’ research advisor.
“Over the summer I designed and built all of the equipment setup from the specifications my advisor and I created,” Hales said. “I was working on the computer controller for the droplet generator when the summer ended. It still had a few bugs to work out, but was almost complete.”
“This ended up being somewhat of an interdisciplinary project,” Post observed. “Adam, who is a mechanical engineering student, had to build a circuit board to control the printer head.”
Hales, who is now pursuing his master’s degree, has continued working with Post.
“This past summer’s value to me was as much academic as it was for personal enjoyment,” Hales said. “I gained experience that I needed to have for my master’s research, and got to enjoy the area around Michigan Tech. The summer semesters in Houghton and the surrounding areas are something that every student attending MTU should experience, especially those appreciating outdoor activities.”
Mantila Gains Experience at Mayo Clinic
When Michigan Tech students talk about three dimensional modeling, they are usually referring to engineering components. However, this summer Michigan Tech biomedical engineering student Sara Mantila had the opportunity to create a 3-D model of something that the average student might not think about modeling.
“My objective for the summer was to create a threedimensional model of a rat’s spinal cord,” Mantila said. Mantila earned a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship from Mayo Graduate School. She spent the summer working under Richard A. Robb, a professor of biophysics and computer science.
“Sara’s project involved the study and modeling of functional repair of nerve tissue in spinal cord injury,” Robb explained. “She joined a multidisciplinary team at Mayo involved in a preliminary study of implants in transected rat spinal cords.”
“I was most interested in the neuroscience project because it was very cutting edge,” Mantila said, “and it had a clinical tie, allowing me to work with researchers and engineers, as well as physicians.”
She presented a paper based on her work at the International Society for Optical Engineering Medical Imaging 2004 International Symposium.